More than 11,000: ABS-CBN shutdown to create havoc on families - Osmeña

David Dizon, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 01:51 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2020 02:25 PM

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MANILA - The potential shutdown of ABS-CBN Corp. will affect not just the network's 11,000 regular and project employees and on-cam talents but thousands of family members and peripheral businesses who are dependent on the company's largest network, former senator Sergio Osmeña III said Monday. 

"This is going to create havoc not only on 11,000 workers of ABS-CBN or their 44,000 who depend on them - wives, husbands, children, their grandmothers and grandfathers and to all the people out here...That bothers me because it multiplies it," Osmeña, who was imprisoned during the martial law regime of President Ferdinand Marcos, said in an interview on ANC. 

"It matters because to me a human life is very precious. If you lose your livelihood, it is very, very difficult to have a secondary livelihood in this country," he added. 

During a Senate hearing on Monday, ABS-CBN Head of Corporate Services Group Mark Nepomuceno said the company has 5,918 employees directly hired by the company while the remaining 5,153 include on-cam, talents, and project workers. 

He noted that a company shutdown will affect not just ABS-CBN and DZMM shows but also The Filipino Channel, which is shown abroad. "If ABS-CBN is shut down, then Global will not be able to support The Filipino Channel," he said. 

President Duterte earlier promised to “make sure” that ABS-CBN would lose its franchise, citing complaints over its coverage of his administration and unaired political ads in 2016. He later told its owners to “just sell” the business.

On Monday, Sen. Bong Go, a close ally of President Duterte, said the President refused to accept a P2.6 million check issued by ABS-CBN to refund him for the unaired ads. He also castigated the network for a political ad that attacked Duterte before the 2016 election. 

Osmeña, however, said Duterte could just file a case against ABS-CBN executives for the failure to air his ads. 

"You file a case for estafa or something. You do not penalize the whole corporation because the whole corporation has nothing to do with that...I feel that this is a grave abuse of power," he said. 

"Sabi lang ni Duterte, hindi mo lang pinakita 'yung P2-million ad ko, tatatanggalin ko na franchise niyo. I said bakit di mo siya kinasuhan sa P2 million?"

All the national political advertisements of then-presidential candidateDuterte were aired by ABS-CBN, but some of his local ads could not be aired since broadcast stations are only allowed 2 minutes of ads per hour for local stations, ABS-CBN President and Chief Executive Officer Carlo L. Katigbak told the Senate Public Services Committee hearing on Monday.

"The President placed an order for P117 million worth of national ads, of which we aired all P117 million. In other words po, a hundred percent of the President’s ads which were ordered for national airing were accommodated and broadcast and aired by the station," Katigbak said. 

"Doon po sa local ads, nagka-problema talaga kami," he added. 

(With the local ads, we really encountered a problem.) 

Only 2 minutes of local ads can be aired in an hour and many spots were already ordered on May 3, 2016, 4 days ahead of the last day of the campaign period, noted Katigbak. 

Biased reporting?

Osmeña also said that "perceived bias" cannot be used by Congress to stop the granting of franchise to a media entity. 

"That is never taken into consideration because we have freedom of the press. If you do that, you will have prior restraint. Freedom of the press goes out the window. You do not do that. The editorial content of a newspaper or a television station or radio station is theirs to make. There is nothing you can do about it," he said.

Candidates or even elected officials who feel unfairly treated can also sue for libel or slander, he added. 

He also likened the attack on ABS-CBN to the Marcos regime's takeover of the network after the declaration of martial law in 1972. 

"It is very, very similar except back then they didn't have to buy you out. They didn't have to pay a cent," he said. 

"It is just one man's abuses. That's it. The first was Marcos' abuses. He abuses himself so much, he put the whole country under his thumb. And now this president wants to do the same thing. He is even more flighty than Marcos. At least Marcos had a legal reason for doing something. This guy doesn't even have a legal reason."